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How Quiet Storm's 'Create Not Hate' helped young people engage with the issue of gun and knife crime

How Quiet Storm's 'Create Not Hate' helped young people engage with the issue of gun and knife crime

For many young people today, particularly from ethnic backgrounds, gang-related gun and knife crime is a daily reality. And the number of deaths that result, make this an issue that must be dealt with.

Currently though, as with many social problems, the typical response is one of well meaning but often ineffectual, top-down communication; message from the powers-that-be speaking from the ‘outside’.

But though these ‘big’ ads may signal ‘action’, and play well with the Daily Mail Tendency, they don’t always connect with the people they actually need to reach. For people from what we call Dis…Communities™ (disadvantaged, disenfranchised, disinterested, distrustful and who feel disrespected by others), such an approach can easily be rejected as irrelevant and patronising, failing to recognise the reality of the situation they find themselves in.

Often it leaves them feeling demonised and rejected, reinforcing a ‘negative’ gang mentality.  Or worse still, it (mistakenly) glamorises the violent behaviour it is trying to stop.

For many urban kids, though, gang membership can be a matter of self preservation, born of fear. As is carrying a knife or gun. Most don’t do it to be cool, they do it to survive (or so they think). All of which is compounded by feelings of low self-esteem and frustrations over lack of opportunities – when you have no hope for a better life, why should you behave differently to those around you.

The question we asked ourselves, as a communications agency, was how could we more effectively engage these kids? And were we willing to stand up, be counted, and do something to make a difference?

Solution:

 

 

 

Developed and managed by Quiet Storm, Create Not Hate is our response. At its heart is a belief that, to engage this audience, you need to involve them in the solution rather than try and impose one on them. And in doing so it demonstrates the power of both (non-digital!) social media and grassroots experiential ‘marketing’.

Working with a team of volunteer mentors from across the creative industries, we run projects with schools and youth clubs. In a workshop format, the purpose of these is to challenge kids who know the day-to-day reality of gang violence, to come up with their own creative communications solutions to this issue.

And rather than limit this to a theoretical class room exercise, where possible we keep things interesting by introducing a competitive element: we will actually produce and run the winning idea, involving its creators in the production process. So far this has involved short films to T-shirts, and all points in between.

The quality of the ideas generated is not the objective with Create Not Hate. Although we are continually amazed by the creativity of the kids we work with. Rather, it is the opportunity to involve them in the creative development process, helping them see beyond the situation they find themselves in, and empowering them to do something about it. Maybe, for some, even to the point where they consider a career in the creative industries that would not previously have occurred to them.

Taking the example of one project, we worked with Lambeth Academy to produce a short film about the perils of gun crime. Stimulated by the murder of local school boy Billy Cox in 2007, we initially involved over 100 young people on this project, before working more intensively with 10 shortlisted ‘teams’. Providing important emotional closure, the competition was eventually won by two 14 year old friends of Billy, with their script entitled A Mother’s Tear.

The film was produced in close collaboration with Quiet Storm’s Creative Director, Trevor Robinson (who had once attended Lambeth Accademy) and ex-gang member and film maker Dennis Gyamfi, before airing in various cinemas and on-line.

As well as generating considerable PR for the gun crime issue, the whole process had a widespread and positive impact on Lambeth Academy and the local community. A Mother’s Tear was also used by the Met Police to open Lambeth Peace Month, and has become part of teaching materials used by other schools in London, across the UK and overseas.

 

AJR

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